The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (2610) Sgt Herbert Francis Cole, 56th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2017.1.135
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 15 May 2017
Access Open
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copy provided for personal non-commercial use

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Chris Widenbar, the story for this day was on (2610) Sgt Herbert Francis Cole, 56th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

2610 Sgt Herbert Francis Cole, 56th Battalion, AIF
KIA 15 May 1917

Story delivered 15th May 2017

Today we remember and pay tribute to Sergeant Herbert Francis Cole.

Born in 1891, Bert Cole was the eldest son of William and Catherine Cole of Wellingrove, New South Wales. He was an enthusiastic sportsman, known to be “at the foremost in all local sports” in the district, and a member of the Athletic Club Committee. He was universally respected for his straightforward nature.

Bert enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force within days of his two brothers, Harold and Roy, and three cousins, the Ryan brothers of Farley. He was posted to the 20th Battalion, and after a period of training in Australia was sent to Egypt. He arrived as the AIF was undergoing a period of reorganisation to cope with the influx of new recruits. As a part of this process, Private Bert Cole was transferred to the newly-formed 56th Battalion.

After further training he was sent to France to fight on the Western Front. Cole proved to be a promising soldier. Shortly after his arrival, he was promoted to lance corporal. He then attended a number of instruction schools which resulted in several more promotions. By April 1917 he was a sergeant, and had been to England a number of times for schools or on leave.

In mid-May the 56th Battalion was in the front line near the French village of Noreuil. The Germans had recently withdrawn to the Hindenburg Line, a heavily-fortified line of defence that ran nearby. For several days, the battalion came under near-constant German artillery fire and observed enemy parties moving around. By the early hours of 15 May some companies of the battalion were too shaken by the artillery fire that they had to be relieved. As this was being organised, however, word was received that the neighbouring battalion had been attacked by the Germans, and the relief was cancelled.

After a difficult fight the lost ground was regained and some men were engaged in building a series of bombing posts in case of a further attack. But the battalion had sustained more than 60 casualties, including six men killed.

Among the dead was Sergeant Bert Cole. His body was lost in the confusion of the fighting, and he is now commemorated on the memorial to the missing at Villers-Bretonneux. He was 26 years old.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, among more than 60,000 Australians who died during the First World War.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Sergeant Herbert Francis Cole, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Meleah Hampton
Historian, Military History Section

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